If you’re one of the many people hitting the refresh button on life with the coming of the New Year, resolving to exercise more, drink less, and eat better, you may have stocked your fridge with lots of fresh and healthy veggies for your own clean-eating plans — including romaine lettuce. Now, authorities are saying that that lettuce could possibly be contaminated — and it could make you very sick.
Fifty-nine people across the US and Canada have been hit with a strain of E. coli bacteria over the past seven weeks, and in most cases, it’s been traced back to the leafy green.
In the US, the outbreak has affected 13 states, including California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington state. In Canada, one death has already been linked to the outbreak, while in the states, the Centers for Disease Control says five people have been hospitalized and one has died.
The CDC is conducting an investigation to determine the cause of the outbreak, and is looking at romaine “and other leafy greens,” though according to Consumer Reports, the organization has confirmed that the strain of E. coli in the US is “a virtual genetic match” with the Canadian strain. Meanwhile, Canadian health authorities are telling consumers not to eat any romaine they may already have, and have pulled the product from store shelves in some regions.
Vegetables can become contaminated with the bacteria if animal feces from the field or watering process aren’t properly removed, according to James Rogers, Director of Food Safety and Research at Consumer Reports. People can also transmit the bacteria by not properly washing their hands after using the washroom before handling food.
According to the CDC, while the infection is often very mild, it can get quite severe, and in some cases, can be life-threatening. E. coli bacteria can cause severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, and occasionally, fever. You could start feeling sick three to four days after eating or drinking contaminated food or drink, and individuals are encouraged to seek medical help for symptoms that last for more than three days or are accompanied by a high fever.
For the time being, the CDC also recommends that consumers avoid romaine lettuce altogether.
Sounds like a good idea to us!
Do you have any romaine in the house you’ll be getting rid of? Let us know @BritandCo.
(Photo via Justin Sullivan + Chris Hondros/Getty)